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Rigor in Experimental design and Analysis of Data (READ)

December 18, 2022

We talk a lot about the role that physician-scientists play as “interpreters” and “translators” between the worlds of medicine and research.  But that often means stepping outside of one’s narrow area of scientific expertise to help colleagues and trainees understand clinically relevant data that informs patient care, even if it’s far from what you look at in your own research.  How do you learn and practice this kind of skill?  That’s the challenge that Michael Higley, our Associate Director for Curriculum, accepted last year when we asked him to design a mini-course on how to interpret and analyze diverse types of data.  After brain-storming sessions with groups of physician-scientists, he identified several data types that often inform translational and clinical research studies directly relevant to patient care:  imaging analysis, single cell ‘omics, flow cytometry phenotyping and population-scale outcomes data.  These form the basis for this year’s READ course, with a faculty expert working with the group to explain each type of data and how it can be analyzed.  Since learning is doing, students then work in small groups to carry out a novel analysis on the data set, which they share with the class and instructors at a follow-up session.  
The MD-PhD program faculty hope that students learn that all data sets have commonalities that allow a physician-scientist to assess their validity and generalizability – and that using these evaluative skills will help Yale MD-PhD grads teach on the wards and provide better care to patients. Program director Dr. Barbara Kazmierczak also has a separate goal for the course: to bring 3rd year students back together a few times a year to work on something that is unique to MD-PhD development.  “Every year, we hear how hard it is for students to ‘disappear’ into labs across the university and lose the sense of community that carried them through the first two years of medical school.  This is a chance to be back in the group, learning to do something interesting and new that’s being offered just to you.”    
This year’s READ instructors include Dustin Schienost, Associate Professor of Radiology and Biomedical Imaging; Silvia Vilarinho, Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pathology, MD-PhD Program Associate Director, and Associate Director of the Internal Medicine Physician-Scientist Training Program; Amy Justice, C.N.H. Long Professor of Medicine and Professor of Public Health; and Ann Haberman, Associate Professor of Immunobiology, Director, In Vivo Imaging Facility and Director, Flow Cytometry Research Facility.

Submitted by Reiko Fitzsimonds on December 19, 2022